Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Calamity Janet rides again – but this time, it's Brian who moves the cheese

On her many and various travels, my auntie Janet has managed to wreak several kinds of havoc on herself, among them, a broken ankle in Holland, badly skinned knees in Arniston, and a close encounter with a big spider here in Kasteel. (Sadly, this list is rather short – there have been several more interesting ones but she’s specifically told me I can’t mention them.)

My friend Johann, who met Janet and her flu bug on her latest visit to South Africa, has therefore dubbed her Calamity Janet, a fitting and even rather romantic name for a woman who travels regularly all over the world, falling down steps, losing (in some cases) actual bodily parts and dealing with the vagaries of a multitude of water systems and food types.

It was, however, my uncle Brian who, on this visit, exposed himself to the hysterical ridicule of the gathered company, on an evening when pasta was on the menu.

It was a warm evening and we ate out on the verandah. But once I’d prepared the sauces, tossed the salad, sliced the bread, grated the Parmesan, sought out the chilli and cooked the pasta, I laid everything out inside, in the kitchen, for people to help themselves.

Brian, a warm and pleasantly wicked gentleman who is also, clearly, a good husband, gallantly helped Janet with her meal, dishing up a generous serving of pasta and passing it to her for her to help herself to whatever sauces her stomach desired, before serving himself.

A few moments later, Johann asked me where the Parmesan was. ‘How odd,’ I said. ‘It was here just a minute ago.’

We looked around at the food-laden counter but it was copiously clear that the Parmesan was no longer in evidence.

My memory is not what it used to be and I had a chilling moment during which I wondered whether I had actually grated the Parmesan, or if I’d just thought I had.

‘Hang on a minute,’ said Johann, who sometimes surprises me with the agility of his mind. ‘Was it on a small plate?’

‘It was indeed,’ I said, grasping with relief at this straw.

‘Then Brian’s got it,’ he said.

And he had. Brian, whose memory is also apparently less than crystal-clear, had handed Janet her plate of unembellished pasta, and then taken up the next plate with a white-looking substance on it, assuming it to be his own serving of pasta (and forgetting, as sometimes happens – and don’t I know it – that he hadn’t, in fact, yet served himself his own pasta). Onto this bed of freshly grated Parmesan he’d dolloped a generous portion of arrabiatta sauce, topped with a healthy serving of salad, and gone outside to enjoy his meal.

He’ll never live it down, of course.

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